Steve Perry’s new series CUTTER’S WARS is about a high tech mercenary team in a relatively near future, the 24th Century. In The Ramal Extraction, Perry begins the series by sending the team on a special operation to save a princess from abduction and save a world from war. They’ll have to use all of their combined wits and varied skills to succeed.
The mercenary team Captained by Colonel “Rags” Cutter, a retired Officer of the Galactic Union Army, is, in essence, a group of misfits. Each of the human and alien mercenaries on the team is expert in a certain essential field, but none of them has been able to fit in with traditional military formations. Though each is a genius in his or her area of expertise, being forced to conform to accepted norms is simply too much for some of them. Each is an interesting character, but there’s an overwhelming feeling of being too awesome for reality that pervades the cast. Even their weaknesses seem more likely to be endearing than truly detrimental, like the doctor who’s addicted to adrenaline and the rush of near death. He’s bored by normal life, but his need to be on the very edge between life and death lets him respond to traumatic emergencies with unusual clarity and skill.
The best part of The Ramal Extraction is how cool the technology can be, especially the biological implants that enhance human abilities and performance. It’s refreshing that Steve Perry reminds us that nothing comes without a cost. Expensive bio-implants may increase your power and value, but there is a physiological cost associated with them, too. Basically, the more you can do that exceeds what a normal human can do, the shorter your lifespan.
Steve Perry also does a nice job integrating the social customs of a modern nation onto a planetary scale. Cutter’s team of mercenaries is so contemptuous of the traditional Galactic Union Army that I could not help but feel that is parallels the author’s contempt for conventional armed forces and the way they are used today.
The Ramal Extraction reads like most modern military special operations novels. The technology is better and there are aliens on the team, but it just feels like there is never a question of the outcome. I never doubted that Cutter’s awesome team would succeed. The story works and it’s interesting and plausible, but it’s not very compelling and I didn’t feel thoroughly engaged.
I love military science fiction and I think it’s fun to see how an author will extrapolate modern concepts across millennia of innovation, and I think Steve Perry handled that pretty well in The Ramal Extraction. But I still long for characters who are grounded in reality and who are still required to really exert themselves to succeed and I didn’t find that in The Ramal Extraction. As the starting point for a new series it was okay, but I hope that future installments of CUTTER’S WARS will demand a little more from the characters, challenging them to grow and evolve and not just to pick up a new gun and kill all the bad guys. Even for military science fiction I need more to be impressed.